Chelsea Collins understands great pop music.
Which is why it’s no surprise her most recent single “07 Britney” is a knockout. The LA-based producer and songwriter has kind of been kicking the door down as of late. Twenty-one years young, she’s only three songs deep in her catalogue, but has already hit her stride. Shining her love for 2000s alternative with the finest pop polish of the 2010s, the result is rather exciting – honest lyrics, crunchy guitars, and productions that will knock your head off. C-Heads recently caught up with Chelsea to talk about “07 Britney”, creative process, and her undying love for the pop music of the aughts.
Andy: So where are you from?
Chelsea: Originally, I’m from San Francisco. Around four years ago I moved to LA when I was 16. So I’ve been here for a minute.
Andy: So you didn’t do any college or anything.
Andy: Was it a family move? Or did you move alone?
Chelsea: It was me, my brother, and my mom. I’m the younger one, my brother’s older than me, so the moment I turned 18, my mom dipped. She was like, “This place ain’t for me, bye!” I’m a responsible person. I feel like most 18 year olds alone in an apartment in LA would just go crazy, but I just locked myself in my room and developed my skills. I’m very grateful. I feel the hardest part to come to terms with sometimes is to have your parents support what you’re doing. I already had a place to live, and it was really cheap. I barely had to pay any rent, so I was like “I’m not going to be irresponsible. I’m becoming a producer. Everyone leave me alone for a year, bye!” (laughs).
Andy: Hell yeah. Have you been a part of any artist projects before this one?
Chelsea: For other artists?
Andy: Your own artist projects.
Chelsea: Yeah, I’ve been producing all my songs since I was like 17. So I don’t really know the right answer to that question, but I did get a publishing deal with one of my writing idols, which is really sick. But that only started around the beginning of the new year, so I haven’t had too much exposure. I did get to work with a few dope artists before quarantine happened though, and I’m really excited once it’s over to dive into that because I love to create for myself, but you get so much inspiration learning from other artists and other creators.
Andy: When was the idea for this specific artist project conceived?
Chelsea: I would say like two years ago. Around when I turned 19, I started producing everything and getting it ready. Over the course of two years the productions changed a little bit, but the songs for the most part stayed the same. I’ve had them on my hard drive, so to get them out has been really fun.
Andy: So you signed with HITCO which is LA Reid’s label. Was that a quick process? How’d that all happen?
Chelsea: It actually was really quick. An A&R I had met at a studio way earlier was like, “come to the studio and play LA Reid some music.” So I pulled up, and I didn’t know, when they said play – I thought they meant just like an aux cord, but it was a piano, and they told me to bring my guitar at the last minute. I had never ever played any of my songs live yet. I was just a studio nerd at that point. So I just pulled it out of my ass – figured out the chords on the piano and the guitar. Clearly that did some good, because it was right before the holiday break. Even then and there he wanted to sign me, but obviously I had to consult with lawyers and stuff. After the break it was so weird. He knew all my songs, and I was like “What… you know all the words? Like what the fuck” (laughs).
Andy: That’s funny, I’ve heard a handful of LA Reid signing stories between Epic and his new label, and they’re all the same. It’s like “they called me in to play music, and once I got there they were like ‘sit down and sing,’” which is crazy.
Chelsea: I feel that’s the most intimidating part, being able to just do it without preparing that much. But to him probably, that shows who he wants to work with or not, because if you can be captivating without a microphone, and all this crazy shit happening, that’s an indicator of how you will be with your fans.
“I feel if you have a really concise vision that you want to execute, then you’re better off alone, but if you don’t have something exact, it can be good to bring your idea to someone else that you trust.”
Andy: Are you entirely self-produced? Are you more of a starter, or a finisher, or do you crank out the full track yourself? What’s your process like?
Chelsea: It really depends. I would say generally, I try to start something. If I am going to co-produce, I feel like I start it, and send it to someone, then they send it back and I finish it. Sometimes I produce alone. Sometimes one of my co-producers does more of the production. It really depends on the song, what my process ends up being. I feel if you have a really concise vision that you want to execute, then you’re better off alone, but if you don’t have something exact, it can be good to bring your idea to someone else that you trust.
Andy: So I read that you’re a classically trained pianist and guitarist, right?
Chelsea: Yeah, well a pianist. I’ve been playing guitar for a while, but I’m not classically trained on it.
Andy: Gotcha. Do you play your own guitars?
Chelsea: Sometimes! Sometimes my friend Chris does it, but it’s varied.
Andy: Yeah, I only ask cause I know you’re big on the 2000s, and there was a lot of great guitar music then. Are there any guitarists you look up to or guitar acts who you think have influenced you?
Chelsea: I would say obviously as a little girl, Taylor Swift. But you know who’s sick? And I saw her at a studio shredding… Orianthi.
Andy: She rips!
Chelsea: Yeah! I didn’t know, before Michael Jackson had passed she used to play for him.
Chelsea: Yeah, she’s crazy. And as a kid, I remember her song that was a hit…
Andy: “According To You”
Chelsea: Yeah, that one. I didn’t know she played all the guitars on that, and then I saw her at that one studio. I was just peeking around the corner. I don’t think she saw me, but I was like, “what the fuck.” It’s so sick when it’s a girl, and they’re really pretty. She just looked like such a star, shredding.
Andy: Yeah, I always love watching the old videos of Katy Perry too, One of the Boys is like my favorite record.
Chelsea: (gasps) Yes! The dress, and the bangs, and the guitar. Yes.
Andy: There’s a video online of her playing V Fest in 2009, full band, ripping the guitar. I mean, she’s not like a shredder, but she’s a good player.
Chelsea: I feel like she understands the dynamics of playing guitar.
Andy: Yeah, totally. Any producers or artists you’ve always looked up to?
Chelsea: I look up to so many different artists for different reasons. I love Britney cause her performance skills are insane. She’s so identifiable, and she’s such a sweet likable person. Her videos were really sick. Her songs are all bops. I look up to Taylor because she writes, and at the end of the day I love writing so much. I look up to Kanye because his productions are super timeless, and when you hear him on a track with other people, he just blows them all out of the water (laughs). He’s just an all-around star too. Despite what people say about him – I feel a lot of creative people can be a little mentally tortured. I feel it. He embraces it. He writes so many songs about it which I think is cool, and he just owns every part of himself.
Andy: I saw a tweet from him a while ago and it said “Ye is Ye so you can be you.” And I was like… facts.
Chelsea: Right? It’s dope. He’s just super super super talented. In terms of production, I love obviously Max Martin, and everyone who works with him. I loved Savan Kotecha growing up. He did a lot of the Ariana Grande stuff, and came up with Max. He’s the one who ended up signing me for publishing, so it’s still really weird to me. I feel like he’s the one person I’m kind of intimidated by because I looked up to him as a kid, and now I’m working with him and stuff. But it’s super cool because having people like that – they push you into becoming a better creator. And they show you things about songs you wouldn’t necessarily realize, and it really helps when you create future songs.
“I feel like with Billie Eilish and Finneas becoming so popular – before they were popular, if you told someone you worked with a sibling, they’d try and axe them out of the process because they think you’re just throwing them a bone, but now I think people are realizing that the chemistry is irreplaceable.”
Andy: You’ve mentioned her a few times already, what’s your favorite Taylor Swift album?
Chelsea: Umm… Speak Now.
Andy: Word, mine’s Red.
Chelsea: I love Red! It’s between those two really.
Andy: Is “Better Than Revenge” on Speak Now?
Andy: What a smash.
Chelsea: (laughing) I can’t believe you know that song. Not many people do. I love that song.
Andy: As you mentioned, she’s a real songwriter. Any songwriters you really look up to?
Chelsea: Obviously Max and Savan. The Beatles. Quincy Jones. Dolly Parton. Wow, when you think about Dolly Parton’s discography, she’s just super iconic.
Andy: I was looking at the writing credits on your songs and I saw a co-writer named Nico Collins. Is that your brother?
Andy: Is he an artist and producer too? Do you work together a lot?
Chelsea: Yeah, we’re both writer-producer-artists. We work together on most stuff honestly, so it’s really dope. I feel like with Billie Eilish and Finneas becoming so popular – before they were popular, if you told someone you worked with a sibling, they’d try and axe them out of the process because they think you’re just throwing them a bone, but now I think people are realizing that the chemistry is irreplaceable. I’m grateful for that because obviously someone you grew up with your whole life who’s insanely musically inclined – you’re going to create magic with them versus a stranger you’re forced into a room with.
Andy: Totally. One thing that I don’t think a lot of people who aren’t actually creators understand is when you’re on tour, or you’re in the studio – whatever it may be, your quirks are really heavily amplified, and quickly. When you bring a sibling into the equation, it doesn’t matter because of that bond you have from growing up together, and how your weirdness gels.
Chelsea: Yeah! And I think they’re really polite too. Sometimes when you first work with people you can create amazing songs down the line, but you have to establish if you can be honest with each other first. So it’s like, maybe the first few songs are gonna suck ass until you get to that magic song, because you’re comfortable being like “No, that’s bad,” or “Oh I love that idea, let’s try this though.” But with siblings, we’re so dramatic. We’re like “Get outta here you suck.” (laughs).
Andy: You have a new single out, “07 Britney”. What was the process for that one like? Demo to master.
Chelsea: Well the demo for a while I had just a basic beat with a lot of the same effects. Same kick pattern, same snare pattern, same vocal. Then I took it to co-producers maybe a year and a half later – I didn’t have all those guitars at first. I had maybe a very tame one going, which ended up staying, but it kind of became less evident. Over time, I want to incorporate more rock things into my music, cause I always loved alternative music growing up. I was like “fuck it” just put harsh guitars into it. Just do it. So my friend actually did those guitars, and over time I edited them, cleaned up the production, and added more effects. That’s when it really came together. Just the other day though, I was listening to the original version of it, and it was crazy. It sounded more Post Malone before.
“I just get bored… I think some of the vibey shit is cool in terms of production, but I think the part that gets lost is some of the melodies… it’s like it’s uncool to be pop or something in your melodies, and I just can’t agree with that. Pop just sucks my soul out, in a good way. I want it to suck me in, and I want to remember the song.” “
Andy: Arrangement-wise it’s a pretty sharp song. Have you been frustrated by how vibey everything is right now?
Chelsea: Yep. I just get bored. Even the pretentiousness among creators… how they walk into the room, and they set up their computer, and act like they’re so fucking cool cause they’re “vibey”. I’m like “Bro, come on. You’re a real human being and I’m gonna crack you. I’m gonna get you to sing a Katy Perry song from 2009 and you’re gonna love it.” And you know what? I always rip the bong until they open up and they admit, “I love Katy Perry!”
Chelsea: Everyone does at their core.
Andy: Katy is like my idol.
Chelsea: Same! Like the Teenage Dream album cycle…
Andy: “Teenage Dream” is like the best pop song of all time, in my opinion.
Chelsea: Yeah, that and “Toxic”. And what’s funny is between those vibey guys, they always end up admitting one of those two songs is like the best pop song, or the best song of all time. But I have to crack them. I think some of the vibey shit is cool in terms of production, but I think the part that gets lost is some of the melodies… it’s like it’s uncool to be pop or something in your melodies, and I just can’t agree with that. Pop just sucks my soul out, in a good way. I want it to suck me in, and I want to remember the song. I want to be taking a shower, and thinking of the song. You know?
Andy: Yeah, I think that’s been really overlooked. So back to “07 Britney”. You just put out a video for it too. You’re kind of running around LA. Tell me about the filming of that video.
Chelsea: I mean, what was crazy, was each scene did not last that long because somebody on copious amounts of drugs would chase us out.
Andy: (laughs) Hollywood!
Chelsea: Yeah (laughs). And it was really scary because in some of those scenes, I had to be really into the song, and I wanted to be into the song, but knowing in the corner of my eye there’s someone on a lot of drugs holding a pipe – like ready to beat me with a pipe… I’m like “Can we move this way? Let’s keep walking.” At one point I broke my shoe. It was crazy, but it was kind of thrilling. It was really fun, like adrenaline. But it was pretty chill because it was just me, my creative director, and the videographer. It wasn’t a whole crew. I got to bring all my own clothes and do my own hair and makeup. It was right before quarantine happened, so no one was working. This was the week where everyone was like panic grocery shopping.
Andy: Okay so like first or second week of March.
Chelsea: Yeah. I think that helped because since everyone was panicking, all the streets were empty, so we got shots that we probably never would have been able to get otherwise.
Andy: Who was the creative director?
Chelsea: Dom from HITCO, my label. It was kind of a group effort though. Like me putting together an outfit, or even the videographer being like “Hey, I know this cool place.” Dom was really good at telling the story of it. It was nice because we all just used our brains to our best ability. I think when you have less people to rely on it makes you work harder.
Andy: I thought a really nice touch was during the verses you would use VHS or a Handycam – what was it actually?
Chelsea: It was a Handycam! Yeah! That was so fun, because I hadn’t used one of them since I was really young. It was dope.
Andy: I thought it was really cool how the verses were Handycam and then the chorus went to high definition shots.
Chelsea: Yeah, thank you!
Andy: So you have more singles coming out this year right?
Chelsea: Yeah, I’m trying to drop a song like every month. Since I’ve been in like a cave for two years making music, I’m excited to get everything out, and now I can focus more on the content part of it, knowing the music’s kinda checked off. But yeah, I wanna do a song every month. Hopefully every one will have a visual of some sort. And then eventually an album, hopefully which will have some collaborations with other artists, which are fun.
“I feel like life imitates art because I would write these songs, especially about a relationship more as something that didn’t exist, but then it would end up happening – a lot of the stuff I had written about.”
Andy: How do you see all these singles as linear?
Chelsea: Well, a lot of them are about me being in a dark place, and then me having shitty relationships. So they all went through the same story, but it tells different time periods of it. I feel like life imitates art because I would write these songs, especially about a relationship more as something that didn’t exist, but then it would end up happening – a lot of the stuff I had written about. I feel like subconsciously I can feel where things were going too. But I see them as a body of work. I think production-wise they’re all really cohesive with each other. The overall theme is with every shitty or dark experience, there’s always something positive that’s underlying. It’s about finding the light within it. Or even with the melodies being catchy and fun… it can be about being depressed as fuck. I always try to have some level of – like Pandora’s Box – the good and the bad. Even when I’m super sad, I’m not really into melancholy music. It has to be aggressive – I’m not into super soft or chill or sad songs.
Andy: Depressing songs in major keys. That’s the ticket.
Chelsea: Yeah, it’s fun!
Andy: You’re pretty vocal about being on the 2000s nostalgia wave. The 2000s in general – do you have any favorite cultural moments from that decade?
Chelsea: I just think the press was way more iconic then. I don’t know. I love the mug shots. I want a 2000s mug shot so bad. I feel like the visuals were really sick. When Britney and Madonna kissed, that was really iconic. When Britney and Justin dated. Honestly, all my early 2000s moments I loved involved Britney Spears. I also loved Avril. Like “Sk8er Boi” and that video.
Chelsea: (laughing) Yes! I love “Sk8er Boi”, and I have so many friends that are like, skater boys, and they get so annoyed. It’s so funny.
Andy: That whole album really. “Two Things I’ll Never Say” and “Anything But Ordinary” like god damn.
Chelsea: Yes! Oh my god, you know those songs!
Andy: Deep cuts (laughs).
Chelsea: “Anything But Ordinary” though – I was actually listening to that the other day. I love that song. Oh, I also love “Fall To Pieces” but that was on the next album.
Andy: Ok, so speaking of Avril. I actually have one last question, which isn’t something I’ve really done before in an interview, but since we’re in 2000s blog mode… These are very difficult questions and there are no right answers. I’m going to give you two artists and you have to pick one.
Chelsea: Alright, let’s go.
Andy: Sugar Ray or Third Eye Blind?
Chelsea: Third Eye Blind.
Andy: Avril Lavigne or Michelle branch?
Andy: All-American Rejects or Paramore.
Chelsea: (definitively) Paramore. Her voice is so crisp. I just love her voice. She’s so good.
Andy: Gwen Stefani or Pink?
Chelsea: Fuck! Ummm…
Andy: (laughs) it’s a tough one. They’re both unreal.
Chelsea: I know. Fuck, I love them both but I think I’m gonna have to go with Gwen.
Andy: The Strokes or The Killers?
Chelsea: The Killers.
Andy: Interesting. This last one is a hammer. The hammer to end all hammers. Katy Perry or Taylor Swift?
Chelsea: I can’t.